“Flow” is a term used in ice dancing to describe a fluid movement from one edge to another. USFSA lists under skating skills the terms “flow and effortless glide”:
Rhythm, strength, clean strokes, and an efficient use of lean create a steady run to the blade and an ease of transfer of weight resulting in seemingly effortless power and acceleration.
“Flow” is also a term used in contemporary theories of happiness and satisfaction in life. For psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow is a state of full immersion in what you are doing, a concentrated state of being. In a 1996 interview with Wired magazine, Csíkszentmihályi says that flow is “Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
To achieve flow, you have to be absorbed in something that is challenging. You lose yourself in the activity and sometimes lose track of time. You gain a sense of clarity; you forget yourself and feel like part of something larger. What you are doing–no matter how laborious it might seem to others–becomes enjoyable for its own sake. Flow makes us happy.
Csíkszentmihályi says that “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times–although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Flow: The Psychology of Happiness, 1992: 3) He adds that “in the long run optimal experiences add up to a sense of mastery–or perhaps better, a sense of participation in determining the content of life–comes as close to what is usually meant by happiness as anything else we can conceivably imagine” (1992: 4).
Flow is good skating and flow equals happiness. A coincidence? I think not!
When I stepped out onto the ice last night, Sonia immediately came up and asked “Is that one of your mom’s sweaters?” and offered to take a picture of mom’s sweater #2. Sonia, you rock and flow! Thanks to Greg for taking the picture of both of us.
I’m adding this note about this sweater a few days later. It’s one of those that only buttons up part way. I noticed when I wore it to the rink that my mom, never one for fashionably low necklines, had added two tiny snaps above the buttons so that it closes up most of the way. Perfect for keeping warm at the rink. Thanks, mom!